Dixie Wing to Reunite WWII Black Sheep Squadron Mechanic with Corsair

The CAF Dixie Wing's FG-1D Corsair. The fighter will be flying to Macon, Georgia on Sunday August 25th to reunite a former VMF-214 mechanic with one of the aircraft types he worked on in the South Pacific Theatre during WWII. (Photo by Luigino Caliaro)

Former U.S. Marine Corps mechanic Grover Burdell Sassaman will get to relive a little of his distant past this coming Sunday August 25th at Macon Regional Airport in Macon, Georgia. At noon, Wes Stowers will arrive in the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing‘s FG-1D Corsair (Bu.92468), an aircraft type that Sassaman was once so familiar with from his time in the South Pacific Theatre during WWII. Awarded the purple heart for the wounds he received in combat, Sassaman will now get to admire the aircraft’s lines in a far more peaceful setting. Interestingly, the Macon native is more commonly recognized in the region for the Harley-Davidson dealership he established soon after the war; at 98 years old, he is the oldest such dealer in the United States.

Sassaman joined the Marines in May, 1942. After completing his training, he shipped out to the South Pacific, where he served on  islands in New Caledonia, the New Hebrides, as well as Guadalcanal, Bougainville and others. His notable history includes helping maintain the F4U Corsairs belonging to Major Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington’s VMF-214 – Black Sheep Squadron – during the Solomon Islands campaign.

Out on the front lines, where replacement aircraft and parts were often in short supply, maintenance personnel had to use their ingenuity to keep what they did have flying. As an example of such fortitude, Sassaman once combined major components from two damaged Corsairs –  one with a ruined forward section and the other broken to the rear – to make one airworthy fighter.

A photograph from Sassaman’s album showing the Frankenstein Corsair which he helped repair. It is believed to combine the forward fuselage and center section of VMF-214 F4U-1A Bu.17777 which Denmark Groover overturned on landing on December 16th, 1943 with the rear fuselage from F4U-1A Bu.49748, a 14 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force Corsair designated NZ5218, which Flying Officer B. Hay bellied in at Piva airfield, Bougainville on July 14th, 1944 due to hydraulic damage from enemy fire. Interestingly, Bu.17777 is also recorded as having been flown by VMF-212 double ace, Phillip Delong. (photo via Sassaman family)

He later embarked with General Douglas MacArthur on his return to the Philippines. Sassaman was injured in the Battle of Luzon and received the Purple Heart in March 1945.  He left the Marine Corps in 1945 with the rank of Master Technical Sergeant.

Grover Sassaman (at right) seen here shortly after receiving his purple heart for the injuries he received during the Battle of Luzon. (Photo via Sassaman family)

“This is a great service for us to provide to a WWII hero,” said Dixie Wing Leader Jim Buckley. “Our mission is to preserve the sights and sounds of WWII aircraft for all generations, and when we heard of Mr. Sassaman’s desire to see the Corsair that meant so much to him, we felt it would be an honor to make that happen.”

About the CAF Dixie Wing Warbird Museum
The CAF Dixie Wing, based in Peachtree City, Ga., was founded in 1987. One of largest units of the Commemorative Air Force, the unit maintains and flies seven WWII aircraft including a P-51 Mustang, FG-1D Corsair and rare types such as the SBD Dauntless dive bomber and P-63A Kingcobra. The unit, composed of 300 volunteers, is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. http://www.dixiewing.org/

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